This is the first of two articles I’ve written about rewilding in my local area. Part 1 will concentrate on some projects in my garden, while part 2 will focus on my attempts to encourage my Local Council to embrace the rewilding agenda.
Part 1: My Garden
I’m 15 and have lived in the suburbs of Glasgow all my life. As my interest in the environment has grown over the years, I’ve become much more aware of the importance of doing everything I can to help wildlife flourish in the areas around me.
In my early years of primary school with the help of my brother and dad we built a pond in our garden (https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-pond).It was designed to be as natural as possible with various levels to support the growth of different pond plants. My grandparents gave us a selection of plants from their pond and a few buckets of water to help move things along.
As the pond matured, within a few years we had a thriving population of common frogs which were very vocal in the spring as the males were calling before mating took place.
Typically, in early April, we would wake up one morning to find clumps of spawn strategically laid in the same place every year to maximise the heat captured from the spring sunshine. At that point our kitchen is turned into a tadpole nursery as we would retrieve some spawn and commandeer some plastic storage boxes as temporary amphibian nurseries! Why? Because it’s really interesting taking some spawn and watching it develop into tadpoles and froglets. It’s also a great talking point for friends visiting the house: those who are not too squeamish at the thought of sharing a kitchen with a few hundred tadpoles!!! Due to the slightly higher temperature inside it takes about 3 – 4 weeks for the tadpoles become little froglets which are then released back into the pond to continue their development.
Of course, one pond led to two and we now have around 20 or so adult frogs each year! On mild evenings in late spring and early summer around midnight, the grass surrounding the pond is heaving with frogs on the hunt for slugs and worms. Many hours have been spent watching them hop round the lawn tracking down their prey. The spectacle has fascinated the neighbours so much that they’ve now built ponds too. The wider benefits? Fewer slugs, healthier plants, greater biodiversity and a garden ecosystem functioning as it should: chemical free, with wildlife doing what it does best. We’ve also had two hedgehogs which have also been regular visitors over the last 2 years.
With my ponds having been well-established for many years it was time to move on to plants and wildflowers. Wildflowers and wildflower-rich habitats provide pollinators (bees and other insects that pollinate plants) with food sources across the seasons.
In spring 2019 I embarked on a project to plant up my back garden with a range of plants designed to encourage a range of pollinators. In addition to natural wildflower seed mixes I also included some non-native plants from the Northern Hemisphere as recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society (https://wwwrhs.org.uk) to maximise the opportunities for pollinators. Plants that will flower at different times of the year were chosen. Now the hum of bees, wasps and hoverflies is a regular sound: indeed, we even have the odd damsel and dragonflies that stop off at the pond.
As a keen Moth’er (person who catches, studies and releases moths) I noticed a huge difference in the number and variety of moths caught in my garden. For the first time in 2019 I caught species such as Swallow Prominent, Elephant and Poplar Hawk Moth which I’m sure were attracted by the greater variety of plants (https://ukmoths.org.uk).
The benefits of planning didn’t stop at summer! This winter has witnessed the largest flocks of goldfinch, (27) siskin (45) and lesser redpoll (16) visiting the garden to feed off the plant seed-heads.
There is still some cut grass in my back garden, but I’m working on a design that’s suitable for a family garden and one for nature to share. For example, the area around my pond isn’t cut to allow clover to flourish and also create a suitable hiding place for frogs leaving the pond. My garden isn’t huge, but with a bit of thought, planning and patience to let nature run its course it’s amazing what will appear!